Because virtual keyboards on tablets always present a problem for some users, there are a multitude of keyboard cases on the market. The keyboards for the full-sized tablets are undersized and can be difficult for touch-typists to type on because of their non-standard layout. I was surprised when I heard that manufacturers were introducing keyboard cases and covers for the iPad mini. How could a keyboard that small possibly be useable? I was given a chance to try out the ZAGGkeys Cover for iPad mini from ZAGG, so we can see how useable this compact Bluetooth keyboard is.
The ZAGG Cover is available in two colors: black, which I received, and white. You can see from the key layout that most of the keys are where you’d expect them to be. Some of the lesser-used keys, like the ~ are relocated and combined with other keys, and some keys, like the ; and the ‘ keys, are undersized. Other keys, like the shift and return keys on the right side, are where you’d expect them, but they are smaller than expected, and the reach seems a little longer than I expect.
As we’ve come to expect with these iPad keyboards, the ZAGG Cover also has a variety of function keys to control the iPad. There are keys to control media playback and volume, editing keys, a home key and a key to open up the on-screen keyboard, plus a key to bring up the microphone for dictation.
The ZAGG Cover is not a leather folio case that engulfs the tiny iPad mini. The Cover is a screen cover that’s similar to Apple’s Smart Cover. It protects the screen when the iPad mini’s not in use, and it has magnets that operate the mini’s sleep/wake functions.
The outside of the Cover I received is black anodized metal. It has the ZAGG name at the middle of the open side. The hinge side has a rubbery hinge that slides over the side of the mini. This hinge grips the iPad well enough that I didn’t worry it would slip off the iPad.
The Cover measures 7.75″ long X 5.13″ wide and is just under 0.25″ thick. It weighs about 11 ounces. ZAGG says their keyboard case is “14% smaller than competitor keyboards”.
The Cover also comes with four rubber feet you can attach to the anodized side to prevent slipping while the keyboard is in use.
Here’s the power slider and the Bluetooth pairing button. I had no trouble pairing the keyboard with my mini. It connected right up without requiring me to enter a code. It connected back up immediately after both had been turned off without requiring me to re-pair the two.
When I close the Cover over my mini, the internal magnets do turn the iPad off; it comes back on when I open the cover. The rubber channel is a hinge, so I can open the Cover up and use my iPad. The Cover works well as a stand for just supporting the mini in the horizontal position, but it does get in the way when I just want to hold the mini in the horizontal orientation. With the Cover in place and the iPad mini in the vertical orientation, you can hold it like an open hardback book.
The hinge does not allow the Cover to fold all the way to the back of the mini and lay flat. If you want one-handed use of the mini, you’ll need to slide it out of the Cover’s hinge and use it bare, or you can flip the mini over and insert it into the hinge face-up and keep the keyboard attached so it’s not misplaced. It reminds me of those PC-tablet hybrids when you do this, as you can see in this image from ZAGG’s website. (I forgot to get a picture of this before I gave away the original mini.)
I borrowed an image from the ZAGG website to show you that the keyboard is backlit. Because of the lighting in my room, I couldn’t capture a good photo showing the backlight. The backlight can be turned off, and you can adjust it through three brightness levels. The light is a bluish-white color to my eye, and it does show around the keys and through the symbol on the key, as see in the image. Turning off the keyboard’s power resets the backlighting to off.
Just as you’d expect, my hands feel a bit too close together when I place them in the home position used by touch-typists like me. The keys are smaller than those on full-sized keyboards, so the reach between keys feels a little off. That said, I can touch-type on the ZAGG Cover. I’m a little slower than on my full-sized Apple Bluetooth keyboard I normally use, and I make a few mistakes or I have to look at my hands to find the right key sometimes. Nevertheless, I can touch-type. If I switched exclusively to the Cover, I think my hands would learn the new spacing pretty easily.
If you are a hunt-and-peck typist, you won’t have any trouble with this keyboard. The “island” keys work smoothly and easily. They work reliably, so you get an entry for every stoke you make. They are quiet; they don’t give an audible feedback, nor do they make the “clickity” sounds that some keyboards with loose, wobbly keys can have.
The backlighting is something I haven’t had on any of the tablet keyboards I’ve tried. Even though it might mean I had to recharge the battery every month or so instead of every few months, I think having the backlighting on makes it easier for me to see the keys when I have to look for one.
Because it is attached much like Apple’s Smart Cover, the ZAGG Cover leaves all the iPad mini’s buttons and ports completely open. You won’t have any trouble using your headphones or your charging cable while the mini is wearing the Cover. It operates the mini’s sleep/wake functions, which I require of any cover I use. Although you can’t fold it back flat like a Smart Cover, you can “flip” the mini over in the hinge for one-handed use of the mini – much like those tablet/PC hybrids. The keyboard has a good feel, and it is surprisingly easy to type on despite it’s compact size. If you need a keyboard case for your original iPad mini but don’t want a bulky leather folio case, you can’t go wrong with the ZAGG Cover case.